« Is there a real problem with animal cruelty federal sentences being way too short? | Main | "Plea Bargaining: Some Comparative Observations" »

December 18, 2013

Task force recommends broad changes to sentencing and corrections in Mississippi

As reported in this local article, headlined "Sweeping prison reforms suggested in Mississippi: More judicial discretion among proposals," there is now big talk about big reforms in The Magnolia State. Here are the details:

A criminal justice task force on Tuesday recommended sweeping reforms to reduce Mississippi’s soaring prison population and costs, standardize sentences and reduce recidivism. “This is the first time in my career — 32 years — that we have taken a comprehensive look at corrections in this state,” said Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps. “… We all know the cost of doing nothing.”

The recommendations include providing more discretion for judges to impose alternatives to prison and creating “true minimums” on when violent and nonviolent offenders are eligible for release.  They also call for defining what constitutes violent crime — something officials said isn’t clear in state law.  Proposals also include increasing the threshold from $500 to $1,000 for felony theft and lowering drug sentences for possession of small amounts while cracking down on large drug dealers.

Epps headed the bipartisan, 21-member task force of lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and defense attorneys.  The group, after working for seven months with assistance from the Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project, developed recommendations for the 2014 Legislature.

Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker pro tem Greg Snowden and others voiced their support for the proposal after the task force adopted it. The task force was created by a bill Snowden authored this year.  Bryant said the reforms “put victims first,” protect public safety and provide “clarity of sentencing.”  Reeves praised the recommendations as “evidence-based, data-driven, fiscally sound criminal justice reforms.”

While the nationwide trend has been lower prison population, Mississippi’s has skyrocketed since it passed some of the toughest “truth in sentencing” laws in the 1990s. The state now has more than 22,600 prisoners and the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation.  Prison costs have risen from $276 million in 2003 to $361 million, with unchecked growth expected to result in 2,000 more inmates and cost taxpayers another $266 million over the next 10 years.

The state has attempted unsuccessfully to reduce prison costs with a patchwork of release policies that created confusion in sentencing and a disconnect between the judges/prosecutors and corrections.  Uncertainty about how long convicts would serve helped push sentence lengths by 28 percent the last decade....

State Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, said the proposed reforms are “historical,” and “create a better system as opposed to a build it (prisons) and they will come approach.”

December 18, 2013 at 12:04 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2019b033a24ef970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Task force recommends broad changes to sentencing and corrections in Mississippi:

Comments

Pew = No credibility.

No victims on panel.

Costs are a pittance compared to costs of 200 crimes a year by 20,000 criminals. That comes to $9 a serious crime prevented, at $360 million a year. Perhaps prevented is too much of a leap, more like shifted to the inside of a prison.

The bigger question is to Prof. Berman. Aren't you just bored with these endless left wing lying propaganda reports? How about a palette cleanser once in while promoting real victim interest in ending crime, and its rent seeking sponsors in big government? This question is from my concern with your entertainment, and meant only in the nicest way.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 18, 2013 12:28:08 PM

Who cares about Pew? Phil Bryant is one of the most conservative governors in the country.

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Dec 18, 2013 2:31:34 PM

Scalia led the charge against mandatory sentencing. Bush exploded the ederal Register of regulations. Bush went on an orgy of nation building. Whatever the masking ideology, nothing can slow the rent train. Loose the criminals, explode government.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 18, 2013 8:01:42 PM

// “it passed some of the toughest “truth in sentencing” laws in the 1990s. The state now has more than 22,600 prisoners
and the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation.” \\

From 1994 to 2012 per 100,000 people in Mississippi:
• Rape fell from 45.4 to 27.5
• Murder fell from 15.3 to 7.4
• Agg. Assault fell from 270.5 (319.9 in ’95) to 149.4
• Violent crimes fell from 493.7 (502.8 in ’95) to 260.8
• Property crimes fell from 4,343.4 to 2,811.0

-- UCR @ www.disastercenter.com/crime/mscrimn.htm

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 19, 2013 10:54:57 AM

is there a way to send a email to the members of this task force regarding these changes as a citizen i have a fiance who is incarcerated in mississippi he did 289.00 worth of physical damage to someone and was sentenced to 45 years it cost tax payers 2,115,000 dollars to keep him locked up. while he knows he did wrong he shouldve gotten help too

Posted by: nacole crossway | Dec 27, 2013 3:19:38 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB